This was written for a contest and rejected. The prompts were to use the words love, oxidation, and alphabet. I edited a few words here and there this time around, so it’s not the exact same entry.
So here it is, because I’m not letting this wine-fueled writing go to complete waste. Hopefully you enjoy it more than the judges did. Sorry, I’m a grump. :/
On her thirteenth birthday, Esibelle’s mother came to her with a gift. She balanced a tiny, trunk-shaped object on her outstretched hands—like she would a serving tray—obscured by a black cloth that hung halfway down to the floor. Esibelle was seated at the kitchen table near the rattling radiator, trying to read and while away the dreary wintry hours.
“Esibelle. Today is your birthday,” her mother said. Esibelle raised an eyebrow.
“Yes, so it is,” she replied.
“You turn thirteen today, and that’s a big day for a young girl.” She bent forward and carefully placed the draped object in front of her daughter, smoothing the stray cloth down over the edge of the tabletop. “In fact, in many cultures, it’s when you’re considered to be a woman.”
Esibelle’s eyebrow remained where it was.
“In our culture?”
Her mother paused a moment, then shrugged.
“In a manner of speaking.”
She gingerly pulled away the shroud, revealing a black lacquered box with an illegible alphabet imprinted in gold around the lid. It was secured with a matching golden lock in the shape of a heart.
“What is it?” Esibelle asked.
Her mother reached a pale hand into the neckline of her dress and retrieved a key that dangled from the end of a delicate golden chain. She removed the chain and carefully slid the key into the keyhole, then turned the box to face Esibelle.
“Open it and see.”
Esibelle clasped the key between her thumb and forefinger. It was cold, almost like grabbing an icicle. Metal gears ground together momentarily, and then the latch clicked. Holding her breath, Esibelle lifted the lid.
The inside of the box was metal, brown and red with heavy oxidation. In the center was a shriveled black thing that looked like a hardened water bladder, no bigger than Esibelle’s palm.
“What is this?” she asked. The smell immediately began to creep into her nostrils: that of an animal’s flesh, old soured blood, and the acute, unmistakable putridity of decaying tissue.
“Esibelle, that is the heart of the first man I ever loved. I’m a succubus, and I prey on the hearts of men.”
Esibelle tried to fight her gag reflex.
“B—but why have you given this to me?”
“Because you are a succubus, too, child,” she said, reaching forward and enveloping her daughter’s hand in her own. “And now you’re ready to take the heart of your own first love. You’ll keep it here, in this box, to give to your daughter on her thirteenth birthday.”
Esibelle’s vision blurred. Her throat tightened. The acrid stench stung her nose.
“Then… what’s to become of this heart?” she asked, trying to focus on the sad, withered little thing instead of her discomfort. Her mother smiled, a smile that was at once cruel and understanding.
“You eat it,” she replied. “It will give you the strength you need to destroy him.”
Esibelle nodded. It made sense.
And she had always wondered what had really happened to her father.